On this date three years ago, the Nets paid a hefty price to give star guard Deron Williams some additional help. New Jersey, gearing up for their long-anticipated move to Brooklyn, acquired Gerald Wallace in exchange for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a top-three protected 2012 pick. Of course, the trade deadline is typically weeks earlier than March 15th, but the cutoff was pushed up in the 2011/12 season thanks to the NBA lockout, which resulted in an abbreviated 66-game season.
While Crash still had a great deal to offer talent-wise, the deal raised some eyebrows for a lot of people from the Nets’ perspective. For starters, Wallace held a $9.5MM player option for the following season and, theoretically, this trade could have amounted to a ~20 game rental for the Nets, who were certainly not headed to the postseason. Not only were the Nets not playoff bound, but they had the sixth-worst record in the league at 15-29, so they were giving away a highly valuable asset in their first-round pick, even though it was top-three protected. On the plus side, GM Billy King managed to shed Okur’s expiring $10.89MM contract and avoid Williams exercising his $3.1MM option for the following year.
In the offseason, Wallace would decline his player option and the two sides instead inked a brand new four-year, $40MM pact. While Wallace became a fan favorite with his hard-nosed style of play, it was clear that his approach to the game wasn’t the best thing when it came to his longevity. In the following season, Wallace averaged 7.7 PPG (his lowest posting since 2003/04) with an 11.6 PER that put him well below the league average. The Nets finished the 2012/13 season with 49 wins, but they were sent packing early when the Bulls knocked them off in the opening round of the playoffs. Months after that, just one year after the small forward signed that lucrative new deal with the Nets, Wallace was shipped to the Celtics in the blockbuster deal that would bring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Barclays Center. Later on, as a member of the C’s, Wallace would comment on how that deal was also ill-fated.
“It was one of those stories of a get-rich-quick scheme. You either hit it big or you don’t,” Wallace said, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “They took a gamble. It backfired.”
The Blazers, in essence, took advantage of the Nets’ desperation to fast forward their timetable for contention while taking on very little ($3.5MM thanks to Williams’ option) in future salary. That first round pick from the Nets gave Portland the No. 6 overall choice in the 2012 draft, which they used to select guard Damian Lillard. The pride of Weber State shot up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft and he has obviously proven to be worth the hype. Lillard has blossomed into a two-time All-Star and one of the very best point guards in the NBA today. Meanwhile, the Nets have watched Deron Williams decline sharply just three years after signing him to a five-year, ~$100MM deal.